A consulting firm that did not meet its contracted goal of reducing the jail's population by 25 percent in 10 months initially made an even bigger promise.
The consultants made light of the 25 percent goal in a meeting with Sedgwick County commissioners on Thursday, asking whether anyone really believed such a reduction was possible in 10 months.
But when Justice Concepts first approached the county in 2007, it said it thought it could reduce the jail's population by 40 percent within six months for $48,000, records show.
Meanwhile, the firm's biggest supporter said she doesn't think her colleagues on the Sedgwick County commission will extend Justice Concepts' contract.
"... and I think that's a grave, grave mistake," Commissioner Gwen Welshimer said Friday.
She added that she's fearful the county will miss an opportunity to find ways to reduce the jail's population.
Commissioner Dave Unruh said Friday he was ready to cut ties with Justice Concepts.
"I think the best thing to do is to pay them to date for work performed and cancel the remainder of the agreement in light of the fact they haven't performed the services they said they would," Unruh said.
Efforts to reach Justice Concepts on Friday were unsuccessful. Nancy Insco did not return a call. Allen Beck answered his phone but said he didn't want to talk because he was driving. Insco and Beck are the principal partners of Justice Concepts.
Peterjohn's vote key
What happens between the county and Justice Concepts likely will depend on the vote of commissioner Karl Peterjohn.
Welshimer and Parks have supported Justice Concepts' efforts. Unruh and commissioner Tim Norton have raised concerns.
Peterjohn said Friday that he is trying to better understand the history of what was promised, given that the contract was signed before he became a commissioner in January. He said he has not made up his mind about whether to continue a relationship with Justice Concepts.
A reasonable figure
The county hired the Kansas City-based firm in August 2008. As part of its contract, which expired June 4, Justice Concepts promised to reduce the jail's population by 25 percent within 10 months.
During a meeting Thursday about whether to extend the contract for 18 months at an additional cost of about $228,000, Beck and Insco said that was not a feasible goal.
Beck asked, almost mockingly, whether anyone really expected Justice Concepts to reduce the jail's population that much in such a short time frame.
"Really?" he asked commissioners.
However, when Justice Concepts first approached the county in 2007, its proposal was to reduce the jail's population by 40 percent within six months for $48,000. The proposal, sent to commissioners Sept. 17, 2007, was signed by Insco.
That was an informal pitch. After the county issued a formal request for proposals (RFP), Justice Concepts revised its goal. Justice Concepts was the only firm to submit a proposal by the Dec. 18, 2007, deadline.
In its formal proposal, Justice Concepts said, "This Sedgwick County project, described herein, has the potential to reduce the jail population by as much as 40 percent. Given previous successes, a 25 percent reduction by the completion of the project in 10 months seems viable."
Unruh on Friday said he never thought the goal was realistic.
"When I first heard their original suggested offer, which was before the RFP, I had mentioned that I'd pay them twice as much to get half as much," Unruh said. "When this thing came out at 25 percent and $124,000, I gave my support. But frankly, I never thought 25 percent was a reasonable figure."
But, he emphasized, Justice Concepts agreed to that figure. It signed a contract with the county for $124,616.
So far, the county has paid Justice Concepts $78,449 of its original contract plus $28,500 for extra work it said it did outside the agreement.
Justice Concepts has proposed extending its contract for 18 months at a cost of $274,696 minus money that hasn't been paid from the original contract for a total of $228,530.
'Bottlenecks' slow work
Welshimer said Justice Concepts' work has been hampered by the lack of a database system that would make it clearer which inmates might benefit from alternative programs such as work release or day reporting.
Information about inmates, she said, is spread throughout the criminal justice system, with one department's information not accessible to another's.
For example, a judge might have information about an inmate that the Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, might not have.
The county's information department is working to devise a system that will allow for better record keeping.
Welshimer said Justice Concepts has encountered "a myriad of problems where we have bottlenecks."
Commissioners are expected to continue discussions about the proposed extension Dec. 1 or Dec. 8.